What is CBT? Introduction to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

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What is CBT? Introduction to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


“What is CBT?” You may be asking yourself this more and more frequently these days as CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) crops up more or more in conversations and the media. Here we explain what CBT is,  how it works and how it’s helping people fight their insomnia.

What is CBT?

CBT is a therapy that corrects thoughts (the cognitive part) and actions (the behavioral part) at the root of larger problem (bad sleep, anxiety  for example). CBT in various iterations has been around for years with the first behavioral therapy trials taking place over a century ago, and cognitive therapy appearing in the 1960s. 

What is CBT? It’s about learning new behavior and creating new habits based on healthier thought processes. After first analyzing the problem and identifying its triggers, CBT sets objectives which are then achieved through the completion of precise tasks and exercises. In short, CBT helps you find practical techniques to combat a specific problem or disorder.

What is CBT and how can it help with insomnia? 

The first line treatment for insomnia as recognized by the medical community 

CBT is often used to battle against phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorders. But it can also help people suffering from anxiety, depression, stress, bulimia, PTSD and bipolar disorder. What’s more, CBT is now recognized as the most effective treatment for chronic insomnia, ranked by the American College of Physicians (ACP) as the standard insomnia treatment, ahead of sleeping pills or other natural sleep aids. 

what is cbt

What is CBT? A healthier solution to pharmaceutical tradition 

Studies have proven that when it comes to sleep,  CBT is more effective than pharmaceutical solutions.  There is a marked overall improvement of sleep in terms of length and quality, without forgetting positive effects during the day. 

Undertaking a course of CBT (without taking sleeping pills) allows a reduction in the daytime symptoms of insomnia. These symptoms can include mood swings and concentration difficulties. What’s more anxiety, fatigue, and symptoms of depression show improvement. This effectiveness is considerable, especially seeing the worldwide prevalence of sleeping pills.

Benzodiazepines (or benzos as they’re sometimes known) are a family of medications prescribed for anxiety or sleep problems. Between 1996 and 2013, the number of U.S adults who filled a benzodiazepine prescription increased by 67%, from 8.1 million to 13.5 million.1 
It’s also worth mentioning “z-drugs” (or non-benzodiazepines). In 2015, 3.8 million US adults were prescribed zolpidem, 68% of users were talking the medication for longer than recommended periods.2
Let’s be clear here, the point of this article isn’t to completely bash all pharmaceutical solutions or to fear-monger, but the numbers are significant and these medications come with a flurry of side-effects, significantly their tendency to create dependence. The 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that an estimated 497,000 people aged 12 or older misused sedatives in 2016; also in that year, an estimated two million people aged 12 or older misused tranquilizers.

In certain cases, CBT can be a safer solution without side-effects. 

what is cbt

Digital CBT- the future of therapy is here

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia treatment (CBT-I) was traditionally prescribed and monitored by therapists. But, a course of digital CBT can be even more successful. Here’s why: 

Traditional CBT is restrictive

You have to visit the doctor or therapist regularly over several weeks. Which isn’t very practical if you have time constraints, professional or family commitments. It can also start to get pretty pricy. 

Traditional CBT can lack precision 

As part of traditional CBT, the therapist will ask you to keep a sleep journal, in which, every morning you note your impressions of the previous night’s sleep or how many times you woke up during the night. Actually sticking to your sleep journal can be tricky- it takes commitment and what’s more, it’s difficult to give objective and precise data on your own sleep. 

Traditional CBT can’t provide daily support

Following a CBT program isn’t easy. With sleep restriction, you’ll likely feel more irritable and ready to break and even abandon the therapy completely. Which is why receiving a little dose of advice and encouragement every day can go a long way. Of course, this is tricky with traditional CBT where seeing your therapist every day isn’t practical, feasible or financially sound. 

How can Dreem help with bad sleep? 

At Dreem, we’re tired of sleeplessness! So we’ve spent years researching sleep to develop our unique Dreem 2 solution. Designed to help people who experience difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, Dreem 2 is a headband and app solution. The headband monitors your sleep throughout the night and then this objective sleep data is used to adapt a program of advice and exercises to your sleep needs. This program helps you address the thoughts and actions that contribute to your bad sleep and break the cycle. Once you start to do this you can put in place a healthier sleep routine and take steps towards better sleep. 


1. Bachhuber MA, Hennessy S, Cunningham CO, Starrels JL. Increasing Benzodiazepine Prescriptions and Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1996-2013. Am J Public Health. 2016;106(4):686-688. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2016.303061

2. Moore TJ, Mattison DR. Assessment of Patterns of Potentially Unsafe Use of Zolpidem. JAMA Intern Med.2018;178(9):1275–1277. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.3031

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